NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 8, 2013.

Penguins-Bruins game overshadowed by ugly play. The details, as well as other recaps of Saturday’s action, in today’s Morning Coffee Headlines.

NOTE: Games involving Canadian NHL teams are recapped in “Canadian Corner”.

Brooks Orpik stretchered from the game after he was attacked by Shawn Thornton.

Brooks Orpik stretchered from the game after he was attacked by Shawn Thornton.

BOSTON HERALD: The Bruins 3-2 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins was overshadowed by ugly incidents in the first period which led to a player from each team injured and two others facing suspensions.

It began with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik knocking Bruins winger Loui Eriksson from the game with a hard hit. It was later revealed Eriksson suffered a concussion, his second within 45 days. No penalty was called.  Soon afterward, Penguins winger James Neal struck Bruins forward Brad Marchand in the head with his knee while Marchand was lying on the ice. Neal was assessed a minor penalty on the play for kneeing. In the scrum which followed, Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton skated up to Orpik from behind, slew-footed him to the ice, then delivered two punches to Orpik’s head while the blueliner was prone on the ice, knocking him unconscious.  Orpik was stretchered from the game and Thornton received a match penalty.

Thornton faces a supplemental discipline hearing with the league’s department of player safety, while Neal received a phone hearing. Orpik was taken to hospital where he was reported conscious and alert. He was schedule to travel with the club back to Pittsburgh, where he will be re-evaluated.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A very ugly scene in Boston last night. Because Neal received a phone hearing, the most he can be suspended is five games. Thornton, however, could be facing a much lengthier suspension, which could be at least ten games. Will this change the culture of the game? Of course not. It’ll be forgotten in a week, until the next ugly scene, then there will be calls again for the league to do something about such nasty incidents.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kings backup Martin Jones made 16 saves for a shutout in only his second NHL game, backstopping his club to a 3-0 blanking of the New York Islanders. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli tallied for the Kings.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Corey Perry,Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Cogliano, Nick Bonino and Mark Fistric scored and Frederik Andersen made 26 saves as the Anaheim Ducks downed the St. Louis Blues 5-2, handing the Blues their third loss in four games.

DALLAS MORNING NEWS: A hat trick by Tyler Seguin powered the Dallas Stars to a 5-1 thumping of the Philadelphia Flyers, largely thanks to a stupid fighting penalty by Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo, resulting in him getting 27 penalty minutes for his dumb attack on the Stars Antoine Roussel, leaving the Flyers shorthanded for seven minutes.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Some say enforcers play a valuable role on a team. Rinaldo’s actions countered that argument.

NJ.COM: Eric Gelina’s power-play goal lifted the New Jersey Devils to a 4-3 overtime win over the New York Rangers, who also lost defenseman Marc Staal to a possible concussion after he was struck on the jaw by a shot from Reid Boucher.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Staal has finally returned to form after missing half of last season to an eye injury, so this could indeed be a bitter blow.

MIAMI HERALD: Tim Thomas made 22 saves backstopping the Florida Panthers to a 2-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings, then engaged in a post-game chat with his idol, former Panthers star John Vanbiesbrouck.

WASHINGTON POST: Alexander Ovechkin scored his league-leading 22nd goal and Braden Holtby made 34 saves as the Capitals defeated the Nashville Predators 5-2.


  1. it’s hard to believe that one team could be involved in so many ugly over the line incidents and yet get absolutely minimal sentences. when you look back at Chara breaking Paciorretty’s neck with a push from behind, Lucic’s run at Miller (Tootoo got a suspension for bumping Miller after that even though he tried to avoid contact … unlike Lucic), Boychuk breaking Raymond’s back (despite him NEVER touching the puck on the play), Chris Kelly almost breaking Van Reimsdyck’s nose with a vicious elbow, and Marchand hitting Lars Eller into the boards from behind AFTER the period had ended. the common thread with all of those incidents is that NONE of them received supplemental discipline and in fact only Chara received a penalty at all. far from being warned by the league they’re celebrated as the “big bad bruins”, could it be that their owner (noted NHL power broker Jeremy Jacobs) has undue influence over the department of player safety? looking back at the Canucks vs Bruins finals it’s sickening to see that Rome received the largest suspension ever handed out in the finals ( 4 times what Pronger got for targeting another players head even though it was the SECOND time he’d done it during those playoffs) for hit that was determined to be less than half a second late.and yet Boychuk never even got a penalty despite almost ending Raymond’s career. having said all of that i doubt Thornton will get much of a suspension for his cowardly attack on Orpik, after all he is a Bruin.

    • You so delusional it is ridiculous!

      • The owners of the Rangers, Flyers, Canadiens and Leafs, along with their business partners and parent companies, Comcast, MSG, MLSE, Molson, Rogers and Bell, have more influence or power than Jacobs could even dream of. Stop the Bruins conspiracy theories already.

  2. In my opinion both Neal’s knee and Thornton’s sucker punches are equally as bad and both should warrant a lengthy suspension. Its too bad the league is more concerned with the PR of it and punish players to say they did, than to actually fix the issues on the ice.

    • Agreed.

  3. Dabroons, your handle says it all, was the knee on Eriksson bad? yup, but Thorntons actions were as bad as the Brashear hit on McSorely, or the Bertuzzi hit on Moore. Its lack of respect for other players, and the fact the instigator penalty will be assessed if tough guys try and do their job. Get rid of the instigator rule and this stuff will leave the game for the most part. With Semenko riding shotgun for Gretzky, nobody messed with him. Let the players police themselves.

    • It certainly wasn’t as bad as Bertuzzi on Moore, get serious. But, yes, Thornton deserves a suspension.

      Want to point out that the two former Blues players who are commentators on the NHL Network–J Mayers and K Chase–both said the Neal cheap shot was worse than the other two cheap shots.

      McSorely and Brashear? On slow motion, McSorely’s stick clearly hit his shoulder first and then glanced off the shoulder to his head. No intent to swing at his head. No one remembers that Brashear cheap-shotted Dafoe out of the game earlier. No call on Brashear of course. BTW, Brashear once almost ran my sons over with his mobile home when he was racing from the rink to avoid giving autographs.

      I agree about the instigator penalty. Gretzky was a total wuss. Bobby Orr fought his own fights and was a darn good fighter to boot.

      • I would say its worse than bertuzzi on moore. Moore Knew bert was skating from behind when he attacked him. Orpik Didnt. On top of that, thornton slewfoot him and punched him at the same time amplifying the leverage and damage he had. Only thing is, orpik didnt get as injured as Moore.

  4. It’s getting ridiculous, partly because we’re much more aware of concussions that occur now, how many unnecessary injuries are occurring.. The Player Safety committee has to S**t or get off the pot as they say and give some half season suspensions or more to show they mean business! If the Thorton incident is a bad as it sounds, disrespecting a player like Thorton did needs just such a suspension. Watch mixed martial arts if you want to see people acting like animals and pummeling each other. I like a good fight once in a while, but this is terrible!

    As far as enforcers, yeah, if they didn’t stage their little “let’s get our team into it” fisticuff sessions and stuck to protecting players, I’d fully agree with Patrick. But that damned unnecessary show of two heavyweights going at it counters the protection theory…

    • I agree with you, Uncle S. My two sons play midget hockey and the older one has gotten 3 concussions from cheap shots. I’m glad it’s his last year.

      We need to make the game safer both for the kids and the pros.

      Remember that Orpik had the chance to fight Thornton and refused. Not excusing Thornton at all, but Orpik gets plenty of blame for the cheap shot on Ericksson and for not “manning up” afterward.

      • The “cheap shot” on Ericksson was a straight-up shoulder check and every coach in the league, including Claude Julien, would say so. It’s really unfortunate that Ericsson was concussed but the hit was legitimate. Neal’s play was deliberate and dirty.
        Shawn Thornton will man up and take his punishment. Good to hear that Orpik left the hospital today.
        The Bruin’s play when they beat the Canucks was completely over the line but they just followed the old sporting maxim, “Play the ref, not the rules.” The refs should have been suspended in that series. Mason Raymond is just now looking fully recovered from his back injury.

  5. This all could have been avoided by the referees doing their jobs. Should have been a penalty on Orpik for the head shot and should have been a major and game misconduct for Neal (repeat offender by the way). When the officials and league refuse to protect players stupid things like Thornton’s punch end of inevitably happening.

    • I couldn’t agree more with your comments.

      Thornton should get a suspension, certainly, and so should Orpik and Neal.

      • Is Orpik even slated for a call? I’ve only heard Neal gets a phone call and Thornton gets an In Person hearing. Last night was not a good night for the NHL all around.

    • Spot on.

      love how Crosby doesn’t get a tripping penalty on Marchand as well. Just keep adding to the frustration of the players…

  6. Uncle, I agree, staged fights are garbage and have no place in the game but enforcers actually doing their job protecting smaller players that are incapable of doing so are a must to keep this stuff to a minimum. To the NHL brass, get rid of the instigator rule and let the players play!

  7. Lyle, I read your Bleacher Report ranking GMs across the league and one common denominator with all those GMs and their organizations is that they have good scouting departments. I think that a GM needs to have the right people evaluating players, without good scouts, a GM can’t make the right decisions. If you have good scouting and you don’t do anything stupid, you will have a good team.

    That being said, I am surprised Poile didn’t make it on your list. Why not? I would include him ahead of Shero, though he did well to maintain his core group, he was lucky enough to be part of an organization that drafted Crosby, Fleury, Malkin and Letang. Obtaining that kind of talent in the first place, without giving up assets, made his job significantly easier. Also, I am not convinced that hiring Bylsma was that significant, Therrien was turning things around when they fired him and they won the cup after he put in all the groundwork. When I look at what he is doing with the Habs now, it looks to me that hiring Bylsma might of been a mistake. The Canadiens are nowhere nearly half as talented or experienced as the Pens yet they are doing just as well this year. The Canadiens with Therrien are progressing, given the Pens recent playoff performances though, I won’t say the same for them.

    • Address your question either in the comments section of the BR column, or e-mail me directly. I prefer to keep comments here on topic as much as possible. Cheers.

  8. Chronologically, there were four incidents and three injured players:
    1. Orpik hits Eriksson in the head (Eriksson concussed, out indefinitely)
    2. Crosby trips Marchand and Neal knees him in the head (No injury)
    3. Thornton Jumps Orpik and punched him (Orpik concussed, out indefinitely)
    4. Dupuis slashed Kelly (Fractured leg, out indefinitely)

    This was an ugly game, no doubt. Although, it is not fair to view a 30 second clip of the Thornton incident. I watched the whole game, and in context… the Thornton incident was one of several ugly plays, albeit the one that produced the ugliest consequences. Neal’s knee was only slightly less sickening in my opinion. I believe both players will be suspended.

    In the end, neither team is innocent. It may be easier to play the victim, but the fact is that three players are out indefinitely… partially due to dirty plays from both ends of the ice.

    Just to note: Bergeron, a guy who was brutally injured by a Pittsburgh player, carried the stretcher out to help Orpik. Take it for what you will, but there has to be some symbolize in that.

  9. let’s be clear about this Orpik’s check was deemed legal by everyone who isn’t a bruin or a bruin’s fan. why should Orpik take himself off the ice just so Thornton can justify his job? if you want to bring up “the code” doesn’t that apply to Thorton as well? any way you look at his actions he’s completely gutless for attacking from behind, he slewfooted him and then punched him while he was defenseless. you can try and color his intentions as noble but his actions were far from that and i hope his suspension reflects just how bad it was.